People get sober in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they just quit on their own. Sometimes they go to rehab. They show up in 12-step rooms, ashrams, churches and their parents’ basements. There is no one right way—something we’ve aimed to show in our collection of How I Got Sober stories. While we initially published these as either first person essays by our contributors or as interviews with anonymous sober folks, we eventually began to realize that there were other stories to tell: yours. This is our reader spotlight and this, more specifically, is Bryan. Founder and CEO of The Sobriety Network, find Bryan on Instagram and listen to The Sobriety Network Podcast on iTunes.
(We’ve broken Bryan’s story into two parts; catch up on part one.)
Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories
Did you go to rehab?
I never got the chance to go to inpatient rehab because my insurance would not cover it. Financially, it just wasn’t an option. I did complete an eight-month Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) called Inter-Care in Manhattan.
Did you go to 12 step?
I went to 12 step right away, but honestly did not even realize I was in meetings until about three weeks in. It was required by the outpatient program to go every day, but I was confused and didn’t really know what was going on. It took weeks for me to feel somewhat normal again, physically and mentally.
Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them?
Yes, I have worked the 12 steps, and the guiding principles have taken root in my life. I do my best to respect the traditions of AA and do not preach at people about it. I always direct people who are struggling with any type of substance abuse to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I encourage them to get a sponsor who will start taking them through the steps right away.
I do not believe I would be sober—nor would I be the man I am today—if it weren’t for 12 step work and the people in those rooms. This process introduced me to a relationship with a Higher Power, something I never had before. I believe it is by far the greatest gift someone can receive. Going from being completely agnostic to having a relationship with a Higher Power of my own conception and understanding has completely revolutionized they way I perceive this world, and the way I act in it.
What do you hate about being an alcoholic?
The word “alcoholic.” It used to taste disgusting coming out of my mouth. I know the public perception of alcoholism is not always accurate and people are extremely uneducated on the topic of addiction. For anyone struggling to accept the fact they may be an alcoholic and do not want to use that word, I hear you 100 percent. But here’s the deal, the meaning that you personally attach to the word “alcoholic” is going to dictate your experience.
In early recovery, the feelings I associated with being an alcoholic were completely disempowering and made me feel weak and handicapped. As I’ve grown in my recovery and learned more about the disease of addiction, the meaning I ascribe to the word “alcoholic” has drastically changed. It’s evolved into a sort of super power in my life. Having suffered the ails of addiction is by far the greatest thing I’ve ever been gifted. As ridiculous as that might sound to some, the story of my struggle now has the power to help others break the chokehold of addiction. By finding a way to change the story I kept telling myself about what it means to be an alcoholic, I rewrote the script and am now free to help others. The 12-step process helped greatly with that.
What do you love about being an alcoholic?
I love that there is no “middle of the road” solution for me. I’m actually grateful that I know, with my heart and soul, that sobriety is the path I must take. It’s my opportunity to live a successful life, where I can give and receive love. Isn’t that what we all really want? We just want to feel like we’re good enough, connected and needed in this world. Ultimately, every action we take on a daily basis is motivated by the hope we will get love.
What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy?
Tool No. 1: Focus 95 percent of your energy on the solution and five percent on the problem. What you focus on becomes your reality. Focus on giving love and connection everywhere you go and, in return, you will get it back tenfold.
Tool No. 2: Happiness only comes from progress. You must continue to grow throughout your journey otherwise a relapse will come knocking at your door. Trust me, it’s happened to me numerous times. Your environment is everything. Make sure to plant yourself in the right environment and the results will blow your mind.
Tool No. 3: Start a business. I know that might sound crazy and impossible to a lot of people, but it’s really not. The Internet and social media have given us all the opportunity to have an impact and a voice in the world. I believe we were all created to be creators, and when you can find the courage to unleash the creative power within, you have the potential to save someone’s life. A mentor of mine once asked me, “If you knew that writing a book, or creating a podcast, or starting a blog would definitely save a person’s life, would you take the time and put in the effort to make it?” It’s why I just launched The Sobriety Network Podcast over at BryanEdmund.com. It’s why I created The Sobriety Network Instagram account with only two weeks sober from a relapse. It’s now grown to more than 15 thousand followers in just under two years. I tell you that not because I’m so great and wonderful, but because your sobriety date means absolutely nothing when it comes to tapping into this Universal Power of love and service. I do not care if you have 12 hours sober or 12 years, I believe we all have the power to love no matter what. The ones who choose to act, be, do and create more love in their lives are the ones who will thrive in sobriety. Fear cannot survive where love is present.
Do you have a sobriety mantra?
Nope. But I probably should create one—that sounds awesome.
What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery?
Befriending Anthony Robbins. It’s a very long story, but I have had the privilege of attending more than 10 personal development seminars as a guest of Tony’s. Attending one of these events (let alone 10) while sitting right up front and networking with some of the richest and brightest entrepreneurs and game changers in the world is completely priceless. This gift was given to me (a broke, hopeless, drunk/drug addict from the Bronx) completely free, after I met Tony in person when I was six months sober. I genuinely just wanted to thank him for writing a book called Unlimited Power, because it had had a profound impact on my life in early recovery. Because I expressed thanks and gratitude without expecting anything in return, I was given this beautiful opportunity to plant myself in the world of personal development. Being immersed in this environment awakened and sparked a fire in my spirit. I highly recommend people keep an open mind; experience an event and then decide if it’s something they’d like to add to their recovery arsenal. Personally, it’s been nothing but a blessing in my recovery and for me.
If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be?
Ask for help before it’s too late. Surround yourself with people who have a light turned on in them. Get a sponsor and do the step work. Go back to your church. Surround yourself with people who are seeking a relationship with a Higher Power. Focus on your health, exercise your body, read books to exercise your mind and start journaling. Listen to podcasts that empower, inspire and motivate you to take the necessary steps to break free. Immerse yourself in personal development. Start chasing sobriety the same way you used to chase getting high and understand that happiness and recovery is not a destination—it is the journey. Finally, understand that you deserve this gift of sobriety but no one is going to just show up and give it to you. Action is required.
This was part two of Bryan’s story; catch up on part one!
Photo courtesy of Bryan Edmund; used with permission. Click here to see all of our How I Got Sober stories.
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